BAN NA ELEPHANT EXPLORER
This easy trek takes the passionate walker into the elephant forests of the Phou Khao Khouay NPA. Of the two herds known to inhabit this National Park, one has quite recently chosen to roam the bamboo thickets nearby the village of Ban Na.
To protect the (wild!) elephants and to compensate the villagers for the frequent damages to their crops, a community-based tourism scheme was introduced. Trained local guides lead the visitors to remote sites within the forest of this reserve and to an Elephant Observation Tower. Ban Na is just over one and a half hours away from Vientiane.
Option 1: in the wet season, June - September
Day 1: Vientiane - Ban Na - Elephant Tower
We will be transferred to Ban Na, which is 80 km from Vientiane. Once we arrive, we start the trek thru the secondary forest. A simple picnic lunch will be served near the Houay Loung stream.
After lunch, we take a short trek to Elephant Observation Tower, 11 m high and located at a natural salt lick. Here you spend the night. An early dinner will be prepared for us to have time to wait for the elephants in a quietly and listen to the sounds of the forest. You now have a good chance to see wild elephants in their natural habitat from close range (though no guarantee for their appearance can be given).
Day 2: Elephant Tower - Ban Na – Wat Pra Bath – Vientiane
After an early breakfast, we will keep track with the elephants. We still may hear them cracking the bamboo. We will trek back to Ban Na, where our lunch is prepared by the local guide's family.
We will learn how to weave bamboo baskets from the friendly villagers. Before returning to Vientiane, we have a short stop at the nearby Wat Phabath, where you can see a revered footprint of Buddha, who is said to have once crossed the Mekong here.
We return to Vientiane in the late afternoon.
Option 2: A harder trek can be offered as alternative in case we consider there is a very small or no chance to see the elephants. The alternative itinerary is designed as below:
Day 1: Vientiane – Ban Na – Nam Hi
We will be transferred to Ban Na. Once we arrive in this nice village, we start trekking on a 14 km long trail sneaking through dense bushland, hiking under high canopy, or crossing sandstone plateus, mostly uphill and across several ridges.
The two waterfalls Tad Lung and Tad Fa offer good locations for breaks and lunch, before heading to the Tad Hi Kheng Khani (Waterfall of the Gibbon) on the Nam Hi where we spend the night camping.
Approximately: 1 1/2 hour transfer / 7 hours trekking
Day 2: Nam Hi – Ban Na - Vientiane
After breakfast, we follow one of the elephant trails. When heading downhill, mostly along the Nam Hi, elephant tracks and feces are often found. The animals may also be heard from a not too far distance roaming through the bamboo groves. Besides wild elephants, other animals such as wild dog (dhole), boar or the rare Sambar, barking and mouse deer are living in the area.
We can make a lunch stop at Elephant Tower. In the afternoon we continue trekking towards Ban Na, where a songthaew awaits the group for the return back to Vientiane.